Outcome-based pay for teachers may hurt poorer school...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 17, 1999

Outcome-based pay for teachers may hurt poorer school districts

The state plans to judge and pay teachers across the state based on how their students perform on the same achievement tests ("Success carries teacher reward," Oct. 10).

That's like taking 1,000 dressmakers, randomly supplying them with different cloth from burlap to silk, and different caliber sewing machines, then judging them on the garments they produce.

If one were applying for a teaching job in a job-seekers' market, and knew you'd be paid more if your students could perform well on some achievement test, where would you agree to teach?

In a neighborhood of prosperous, educated people who take their kids places, read to them, check their homework, speak grammatical English, go to school functions and feed their kids well?

Or in an unsafe neighborhood where kids go home to no one in the afternoon, don't have many books at home and have no clear idea of living differently?

Teaching is a tough job in any case. Even with students who have support at home, a teacher must devote much time, skill and patience to help a young person become his or her best.

But the same teacher, working just as hard, in a school with less privileged kids (which is likely to be a a shabbier place with less up-to-date equipment) cannot produce students whose performance rivals those of the wealthier area.

In deciding which teachers deserve merit pay, we had better think about how to compare student performance levels .

Otherwise, we may not have anybody willing to teach in the tougher schools.

Marie B. Armstrong, Pasadena

Merit pay is imperfect, but our schools need it

Congratulations to Prince George's county school Superintendent Iris Metts and Maryland Superintendent Nancy Grasmick for their stand on performance pay for teachers ("Success carries teacher reward," Oct. 10).

This idea is long past due. A system that makes a teachers' academic record the criteria for who can teach, and gets better pay, is doomed to mediocrity.

Businesses found long ago that those who make the marks in school often cannot make the grade in life.

The proposed reward system for teachers who can motivate students to learn cannot be close to perfect.

Excellent facilitators of learning can, for example, be severely hampered in schools where behavior problems and lack of parental support are the norm.

But, as Ms. Grasmick implied, if long-used reasons for mediocrity are allowed to stop progress, we will never have accountable school systems.

Richard Berman, Baltimore

Angelos has backed educational trust

My statement in Wednesday's Opinion Commentary section should have read: "I would ask Mr. Angelos to continue funding for poor children to go to private schools" ("Challenges for Angelos," Oct. 14).

Mr. Angelos is a supporter of the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust. He understands in a very real way the issues of economically disadvantaged children.

I salute him for sharing his time, talent and resources with countless children who were born with less than enough.

Karen Bond, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust.

Private school parents subsidize public education

In his recent letter, Tony Buechner claimed that "the voucher system would sap money from the public schools . . ." ("Tufaro's voucher proposal would hurt public schools," Oct. 8).

At present, parents who send children to Catholic and other private schools are the ones who lose money. They, in effect, donate money to the public schools.

These parents pay the same taxes as everyone else to support public education, but their children derive very little benefit from these taxes. And they also pay private school tuition, which is not tax-deductible.

Has anyone ever calculated what it would cost the public if every private school suddenly closed?

Perhaps opponents of vouchers should stop and say thanks once in a while to private school parents, for the funds that they pay into the public system.

Elaine Hanus, Cambridge

A gulf does separate the rich from the poor

I was disheartened to read Robert Rector and Rea Hederman's argument in The Sun that the gap between the rich and poor is "exaggerated" ("Census report exaggerates gulf between poor and rich," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 12).

They even suggested that income discrepancies are the natural result of differences in behavior and ability.

Anyone using statistics to show how the poor aren't as bad off as they think are is doing two things: manipulating statistics and not seeing the big picture.

If these people actually noticed how people live, they would feel ridiculous explaining how similar the incomes of rich and poor people are.

And, by adding that the rich are of the most productive segments of society, the authors further the myth that high income means high productivity.

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